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The ACIP, Paul Offit, and harassment by antivaxers

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is the committee that decides on the CDC-recommended vaccine schedule. Naturally, antivaxers don’t like it—or any scientist on it. Or any vaccine advocate, for that matter. Paul Offit is a particular target of their ire, and they can be quite scary.

When I first started writing about the antivaccine movement, lo, these 14 years ago or so, one thing that I noticed immediately that one of the favored tactics of its members is to attack critics. While I do still blog under a pseudonym now and my real identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in the skeptical blogosphere, back then I still took my pseudonym seriously. I realize now that I shouldn’t have bothered given how poor a protection pseudonyms are, but it was only months before antivaxers and other quacks outed me and starting harassing me at work. It’s how they rolled. It’s how they still roll. Only now, if anything, they’re worse. Not only do they do their damnedest to out skeptical bloggers who use a pseudonym, but they’ve diversified their targets. Now they harass scientists at public events and show up in force at meetings like the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Here’s an example. Late last month, as part of his book tour for his book, Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information, Dr. Paul Offit appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. As most of my readers know, Dr. Offit is a pediatrician and vaccine scientist who co-invented a vaccine for rotavirus and has been a tireless champion for childhood vaccination. As a result, he’s received unending abuse from antivaxers, up to and including credible death threats. As part of the audience of around 120 in attendance was a large contingent of antivaccine activists, including the antivaccine blowhard who has none of Andrew Wakefield‘s unctuous charm but all of his arrogant obnoxiousness, Del Bigtree. Bigtree, of course, is known for flamboyantly invoking the Founding Fathers and saying that people should be willing to die to oppose school vaccine mandates, but, more importantly, he produced the antivaccine propaganda movie VAXXED with Andrew Wakefield directing it.

What happened at the National Press Club was, alas, predictable:

Offit has been known to trail throngs of anti-vaccination protesters in his wake, and the Headliners’ Book Rap was no exception. Before the event, anti-vaxxers passed out literature questioning his science and motives. Numerous audience members repeatedly disrupted the interview, shouting questions and accusing him of lying and taking money from pharmaceutical companies.

“I’m sorry people are upset I made money,” he said, referring to his co-invention of the vaccine for rotovirus, a disease that killed some 2,000 people world-wide every day until widespread inoculation occurred in 2013. Pharmaceutical companies, he noted, have the resources to develop a vaccine.

“I didn’t spend 26 years in a lab with white mice and no windows to make money,” Offit said. “I did it to help people. I work in a hospital. I hate seeing children get sick and die. And yet I get accused of being part of some giant conspiracy.”

The event’s moderator, Club Vice President Alison Kodjak, asked Offit about the negative public reaction to his support for vaccines. “It’s shocking to me,” he replied. “All I do is represent the science in a compelling and accurate way.”

That, of course, is all you have to do to attract the ire of antivaxers. I myself have been on the receiving end many times, and I haven’t done anything nearly as awesome as invent a vaccine, as Paul Offit did. I’m just a blogger, which goes to show that just communicating good science is enough to bring down the wrath of cranks like antivaxers. Perusing Twitter as the Washington Press Club event was occurring, I learned that Del Bigtree was being an obnoxious ass, while other antivaxers criticized a provaxer for taking pictures and videotaping the event, all while they themselves were doing a live Facebook feed of it. Before the talk started, Bigtree also handed out what he referred to as a “white paper” that appeared to be nothing more than scripted questions for antivaxers to ask.

Rene Najera, a pro-vaccine advocate who attended the talk, described it thusly:

As the talk began, the moderator tried to stick to talking about the book, but the anti-vaccine activists wouldn’t have it. They flooded the moderator with questions – copied from the script and written in cards, as was required by the hosts – about different conspiracy theories on vaccines.

Calmly and with plenty of examples to back up his claims, Dr. Offit responded to many of the questions asked by the crowd through the moderator. However, there were several instances where the leader of the group interrupted Dr. Offit, to the point where the leader of the group was asked to remain quiet (for the third time) or leave. Others continued interrupting, with another man in the audience asking Dr. Offit to disclose his earnings from the rotavirus vaccine. To that, Dr. Offit responded that he didn’t have to disclose anything, that it wasn’t any of the man’s business. (This response was met with some applause.)

That’s another reason why I admire Dr. Offit. I’m nowhere near as good at controlling my sarcasm in response to idiocy. Dr. Offit’s ability to stay civil in such circumstances is almost preternatural, with rare exceptions. For instance, when I met the Gnat, who showed up at a DC-area talk I gave five years ago, the guy totally creeped me out.

Dr. Offit is a thoughtful guy. He’s also classy to a point that I can’t match in that he even shook the hands of a number of antivaxers before the beginning of his talk. and in the wake of his Washington Press Club appearance, he wrote an op-ed entitled What a vaccine scientist facing angry anti-vaxxers wishes he had said. In it, he cast a withering eye on his own performance, noting what he wished he had thought quickly enough to say, noting:

Before the interview began, Kodjak took the precaution of asking the audience for written questions that she would ask me in order to keep the conversation civil; unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Some activists started shouting at me; one asked how much the pharmaceutical industry was paying me.

I think I did a reasonable job of handling the shouting. But here’s how I could have made my point clearer:

This was followed by several points that he wish he had gotten across clearer, including how in 1976 epidemiological studies were able to detect an incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome after swine flu vaccination of 0.0001%, showing that, given how rare Guillain-Barré was aftr vaccination how epidemiological studies detected it anyway, epidemiological studies should be able to detect a correlation between vaccination and autism, a vastly more common condition. Read his whole article. It’s worth it.

Another example will be coming up in February, with the upcoming meeting of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). As I’ve discussed before, ACIP is the committee charged with creating the CDC-recommended vaccine schedule, and it’s an antivaccine myth that ACIP is a tool of the pharmaceutical industry whose sole purpose is to push vaccines on the children of unwilling parents. Indeed, ACIP and other CDC committees have very stringent rules designed to prevent conflicts of interest, and industry representatives do not have a vote. Still, none of that has stopped antivaxers from trying to flood ACI meetings with bogus questions about vaccine safety. Moreover, I’ve learned from various people in the know that antivaxers have been becoming more and more obnoxious about trying to disrupt ACIP meetings.

Indeed, there’s a Facebook group called Inundate the CDC ACIP Meetings, and, yes, they have a page called Inundate February 2019 CDC ACIP. The “About” section says:

I have been going to the CDC’s ACIP meetings and I wanted to make something more specific to the meetings themselves where all can keep up with when they are, when to register, where, share photos, comments, and videos from our presence there. We have got to keep showing up and we have got to get larger in force.

The person running the FB page is someone named Lynette Marie Barron, who describes herself as an “Advocate & Activist for Vaccine Truth. Radio Show Host 💻 & Business Owner!” (Any time, you see someone describe themselves as an “advocate for vaccine truth,” just substitute the word “antivaxer” for the phrase. It’ll be more accurate. A quick look at her Twitter feed reveals that she hasn’t Tweeted in nearly two years, but when she did, oh boy! She posted some seriously ridiculous antivaccine nonsense and retweeted Mike Adams. She has a YouTube channel for her Forsaken Generation radio show, which feature lots and lots of antivaccine misinformation. Not surprisingly, she did an interview with the VAXXED crew in which she describes her mission to tell ” the story of her family’s fight to spread the word about vaccines and the injury to her daughter, Jasmine.”

The posts on the Inundate the CDC ACIP Meetings are lovely, too. For instance, I didn’t know that Snoop Dog was an antivaxer:

Elsewhere, someone named Thomas Milcarek posted “See you in three months, Mr. Proffit” (antivaxers derogatory term for Dr. Offit). Later he wrote:

I hope to make it. If I keep telling myself I will it will help me do what is necessary to make it. 😉 Just remember, though I totally support what you women did in having lunch with Dr. Profitt, I will have a different way of talking to this guy. I will not be so to speak, so gentle with a guy who I think is killing and maiming children with his way of doing things. I myself almost died from the TDaP vaccine leaving me suicidal for 2 years at least and it has left me with one wandering blind eye also from Ischemic Stroke. So I also have a very Personal Perspective on these issues let alone the deep anger I have for all the beautiful children his policies are Harming.

No wonder so few vaccine advocates want to put themselves out there. If you don’t end up being libeled on a blog with a couple million visitors a month (as Mike Adams has done to me), you can expect that antivaxers will try to show up at any public event you are at in order to harass you. Indeed, my biggest fear earlier this year when Dr. Offit gave a talk at my medical school at my invitation was that antivaxers would find out about it and try to get in to disrupt it. (Fortunately, there is security at the medical school.) If you are involved in making vaccine policy, you might even get death threats, as has happened to Paul Offit.

This is who the antivaccine movement is. So what else would you expect from a movement that traffics in violent memes involving fantasies of revenge and defense, with people like Del Bigtree invoking the Founding Fathers and revolution while telling his followers who own guns and believe that the Second Amendment is there so that the people can rise up against tyranny that “now’s the time” for guns while likening school vaccine mandates to what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust? Sure, most of it’s huffing and puffing for their followers, but as we have learned, all it takes is a handful of people who take the rhetoric seriously—or even just one.

All of this is why I admire Dr. Offit and those who speak out for vaccines. I’m just a humble blogger, and, compared to many of them (particularly the women, who often face major misogyny from antivaxers), the abuse that I’ve endured is endurable. At least, it has been thus far.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

61 replies on “The ACIP, Paul Offit, and harassment by antivaxers”

I watched the live in real time, and thought Dr. Offit really handled it very well.
I would add that in the last ACIP, antivaccine activists who attended got up during the public comment period and made comments that –

A. Strongly suggested they did not understand the discussion well. For example, after a session on improving the formatting of the online schedule they attacked the committee for adding vaccines to the schedule, which wasn’t the topic.

B. Were extremely aggressive in accusing the committee of seeking to harm children and making personal comments.

Was the topic of adding vaccines to the schedule given a timeslot for public comment in the meeting? Or was their choice between not discussing their concerns on that issue with policy makers versus speaking up during an inappropriate point in the meeting?

There was a time for general topic on any topic, and they used it abundantly.

It was clear from their comments that they misunderstood the topic and thought the committee was adding vaccines. They simply did not understand the topic of discussion.

After another session on hepatitis A vaccines for the homeless – following a large hepatitis A outbreak in the homeless in multiple states, which killed tens of homeless and hospitalized hundreds (something you wouldn’t know if you got your information on this only from the anti-vaccine participants), where the committee recommended hepatitis A for any homeless person a year over, several of them came out with claims that the committee recommended hepatitis A vaccines for newborns.

It’s not true for all of them, but the impression is that many of these people simply do not understand even the big topic of discussion in the meetings, let alone the more detailed analyses.

Tibetanfightingchipmonk Say Dorit, I was wondering. Since you are so involved with the death and maiming of young children and adults with vaccines, ideally at some point working to prevent this from happening, and you being an Israeli citizen and all, are you also intimately involved with the killing and maiming of the children of Palestine? Do you have this totally illogical view that Israel has some right to exist? Do you believe as the Genocidal killers in Israel seem to believe that “God” gave Israel this land, that “God” is some kind of benevolent real estate Mogul?. Do you honestly believe in this religious fanaticism? Just a passing curiosity I have had about you if you care to share.

Oooh, look! It is the stalking troll clown!

Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Rawhide!
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Though the threads are swollen
Keep them comments trollin’,
Rawhide!

Cherry pick!
(Head em’ up!)
Move goalposts!
(Move ’em on!)
More insults!
(Head em’ up!)
Rawhide!
Make stuff up!
(Paste ’em in!)
Change topics!
(Cut em’ out!)
Whine some more!
Paste ’em in,
Rawhide!
Keep trollin’, trollin’, trollin’
Though they’re disaprovin’
Keep them comments trollin”,
Rawhide!
Don’t try to understand ’em
Just rope, laugh, and ignore ’em
Soon we’ll be discussin’ right without ’em

Tommy, you just don’t understand that insults are not a valid substitute for actual factual evidence. Which makes you a boring stalking troll clown:

Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Rawhide!
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Though the threads are swollen
Keep them comments trollin’,
Rawhide!

It’s too bad your medical school has effective security. Letting a couple of antivaxxers in would have been a significant teaching moment for your students and residents. It would have made them all better doctors.

I get where you’re coming from, but sooner or later someone is going to show up packing, and politicians will cite ‘thoughts and prayers’ yet again.

I stupidly handed a woman my business card at the NCP talk. The next day, one Yvonne (or was it Yvette?) Nieves (Twitter: @XmasBeba) posted pictures of me on Facebook and went on and on about wanting to sue me for posting pictures of the “private” event. (It wasn’t private, and I got clearance from the NCP staff — the ones telling Bigtree to stay quiet or be kicked out — to take pictures.) The woman whom I gave my business card to, who swore she wouldn’t share it, happily posted it on Facebook as well. Lucky for me, I chose the wrong card, one from when I was a doctoral student at Hopkins and not my current, professional one.
They also seemed obsessed with taking away my medical license, so they clearly don’t understand what a DrPH (doctor of public health) is and isn’t. I’m not a physician. I don’t take care of people. My only license in the US is my degree.
And, finally, Ms. Nieves was super obsessed with my weight. Something about it really triggered her. Maybe if I lose weight vaccines will be safe?
These are not parents who are honestly questioning vaccine science. Far from it. They’re evil people who ignore reality and fabricate accusations in order to justify their ignorance.
I’d say they were super villains, but they don’t even have a good origin story.

@ Rene F. Najera, DrPH;

A long time ago, a psychologist wrote about how successful women were often insulted for their appearance. They may also be called slutty or cheaters. So welcome to the club.
SRSLY: is that all they have?

Truthfully, woo-meisters may perseverate on weight because they believe that only vegans, paleos or pure foodists can be healthy so they measure everyone against their own unrealistic standards. One idiot prescribes extremely low fat levels in both diets and people! All unsupported by data -btw-.

Perhaps like me you committed the unforgiveable sin of once eating a cheeseburger or cheesecake or even cheese!

Perhaps like me you committed the unforgiveable sin of once eating a cheeseburger or cheesecake or even cheese!

They’d call me the Antichrist, then. 😛

One idiot prescribes extremely low fat levels in both diets and people! All unsupported by data -btw-.

Both you andDrPh Najera should know that a healthy weight is highly desirable for good health–at a population level anyway. What data could you be referring to that does not support a low-fat diet?

We should all be concerned about the obesity epidemic, especially in younger people who are already suffering earlier onset diabetes and heart disease. This is not “body-shaming”, as obese people would have it (nor am I in favor of commenting directly to an individual about appearance), but a genuine public health issue. This is like making an appointment with a Registered Dietian for diabetes management (weight control) and then finding that (s)he is 60 lbs overweight when you get there.

I haven’t had a cheeseburger, cheesecake, and very little cheese for nearly 15 years, and you know what, I don’t miss my diabetes one bit. I do enjoy fat-free yogurt, veggies, whole grains and some cheese–in appropriate serving sizes.

@ brainmatterz:

I am discussing extreme diets/ ideas promoted by alt med advocates such as:
10% fat total
only vegan, non-GMO
no wheat
men should be under 10% body fat, women, 14% and under

conversely, others promote Paleo high protein ( meat), high fat, little grains/ carbs etc.
( examples above : Gary Null , Mercola respectively.)
These diets are often promoted as panacea.

Everyone knows that obesity is a problem:
to some of us it’s personal: my mother worked in fashion for many years and then, because of severe arthritis, became less active and gained a lot of weight: she had serious illnesses mostly related to this weight for the rest of her life including diabetes, visual problems and cardiovascular disease.

Interestingly, one of these so-called experts continuously rails against dieticians. If a dietician is overweight does that mean that he or she forgets whatever they learned in order to get licensed? Some people have genuine difficulties controlling their weight and it’s not because they’re not vegan .It may be because they have sedentary lifestyles based on their working conditions- long hours at desk, limited food choices; others have physiological issues that make weight control difficult
-btw- I’ve never had a weight issue myself despite eating dairy products and poultry.

Overweight isn’t just a health issue: poorer people are heavier because they often cannot afford a more balanced diet or it is unavailable where they live ( “food deserts” in inner cities) – unhealthy foods are often the cheaper choice,.

I may be Dutch, but I don’t like cheese.
Which in a way makes me sad, because there are so many different cheeses I will never buy.

Super villains in the vein of Felix Faust or Dr. Light. From the comics not the animated series which tend to portray classic villains better than during the Silver Age or Bronze Age of comics.

Jokes, in other words.

The first time I met Paul was while requesting that he consider being a consultant at a public meeting. He declined citing security issues. We had some time to kill so I asked more about the threats he’s received. As is his habit he was quite frank in providing details of threats; if I were he I can’t imagine how I could do my job under such threats to myself (and my family).

As regards security, ACIP meetings make it difficult for a casual evildoer to harm someone. Participants have to register in advance (no same-day entrants), present passports, security is present both to enter the CDC campus and at the venue, and all entrants must go through TSA-style metal detection. Likewise FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee meetings now typically take place on the new campus with similar if not more stringent security measures compared with ACIP. I’m not a security expert though it seems to me that in order to participate in the two most important vaccine public policy meetings in the US you’d have to be skilled and premeditate to cause harm to an expert.

Because I survey various anti-vaxxers and woo-meisters, I see where Milcarek gets his ideas about ” killing and maiming”: there is a constant barrage of invective against SBM and vaccines. People like Offit are labelled as criminals. Only a few days ago, Michelle Obama discussed how other fanatics’ lies about her husband’s origins endangered her family: you never know when an unbalanced person will take them seriously and strike out violently.

All my life I have tried hard- usually unsuccessfully- to stand up and speak out against ignorance and prejudice. Dr Ofit is a great role model for all of us as are Orac , Dorit and Rene who have had their share of garbage thrown at them for years. A while ago I speculated that the usual suspects are fuelled by jealousy: perhaps Mikey or Gary or Del imagined that one day they would be recognised for their brilliance and weren’t so their only pathway to fame was to incite similarly uneducated followers to tear apart someone who has made real contributions to science or society.If you look at Jake’s blog, all he does to throw shade on people who has achieved something beyond his ken.

you never know when an unbalanced person will take them seriously and strike out violently.

As evidenced by the whackadoodle who stormed a pizza place in DC thinking there was a pedophile ring in the basement, and the other whackadoodle who murdered Jewish worshippers at synagogue because of “deep state” or something.

Yeah. It could happen. :/

I understand their anger, as it is born of grief. Then, to add; the severe marginalization by the medical & scientific community in the media, not to mention the mockery that has been made of the scientific approach to the specific conditions causing death & disability to their (& mine) children.

You can’t believe how discouraging it is to be left sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for that next, precious bit of information to be unveiled; only to find that it’s yet another collective “guffaw” about: “rising rates that aren’t, really” , or: “Another potential single-gene cause for Autism discovered & added to the list of 850 genetic variants already noted. Pardon: Make that 851.” (sigh).

Maybe years of this could lead to a “shoot the messenger” mentality? I don’t know.

The only way I maintain my (tenuous) grip on sanity is to remind myself that today’s immunization advocates had nothing to do with this (first paragraph). That you really are doing what you believe is in the best interest of all children. How can I fault you for this? I can’t; you are champions for children.

Threats, stalking & intimidation; are unacceptable. All the time & every time. It’s just wrong. And counterproductive.

This is an exercise in patience. You love your SBM? Me too. It will prevail. There is no true consensus found in or by retrospective epidemiology, nor the mega-reviews of such, when the affected cohort is such a minority. Yet, still a statistically significant minority. SBM will find them, eventually but disruptive behavior is just a distraction.

Speaking of pseudonyms, Dorit; the prolific poster who has assumed your “pseudo-pseudonym” has caught me off guard, more than once. It’s annoying but I suppose I just need to slow it down when I read.

I understand their anger, as it is born of grief. Then, to add; the severe marginalization by the medical & scientific community in the media, not to mention the mockery that has been made of the scientific approach to the specific conditions causing death & disability to their (& mine) children.

Regarding “severe marginalization”, what exactly do you mean by that? That all these claims of “vaccine injury” aren’t taken seriously?

You can’t believe how discouraging it is to be left sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for that next, precious bit of information to be unveiled; only to find that it’s yet another collective “guffaw” about: “rising rates that aren’t, really” , or: “Another potential single-gene cause for Autism discovered & added to the list of 850 genetic variants already noted. Pardon: Make that 851.” (sigh).

I’m sorry that you don’t find this relevant but you are only including a small part of autism research. There are so many angles of autism research and what compounds the difficulty is that autism is a heterogenous disorder with multiple aetiologies. What is it that you are looking for?

There is no true consensus found in or by retrospective epidemiology, nor the mega-reviews of such, when the affected cohort is such a minority. Yet, still a statistically significant minority.

You’ll have to elaborate on this as well since at it’s face, it is an incorrect statement.

Speaking of pseudonyms, Dorit; the prolific poster who has assumed your “pseudo-pseudonym” has caught me off guard, more than once. It’s annoying but I suppose I just need to slow it down when I read.

Oh good grief, you think Prof. Reiss is Orac?!

“Oh good grief, you think Prof. Reiss is Orac?!”

No, she means a prolific anti-vax poster who is using a fake name very similar to Dorit (I think I have seen it once or twice, but do not recall where). Kind of like when Robert Schecter was posting using the name “Sid Offit” (the name of Dr. Offit’s uncle):
https://respectfulinsolence.com/2013/08/14/an-zombie-antivaccine-meme-rises-from-the-grave-again/#comment-139595

As you know, it is a common tactic to confuse and frustrate when they cannot use actual evidence.

Not a problem, we all mix things up. I know I have had to apologize here and there for misinterpreting someone.

“There is no true consensus found in or by retrospective epidemiology, nor the mega-reviews of such, when the affected cohort is such a minority.”

I wonder about the validity of arguing that autism is an epidemic, while simultaneously declaring that it’s too rare for epidemiologic studies.

“That you really are doing what you believe is in the best interest of all children. How can I fault you for this? I can’t; you are champions for children.”

Speaking of rare, it’s encouraging to see an attitude towards pro-immunization advocates that avoids demonization. Dishonest tactics aside, I have no problem seeing many antivaxers in the role of passionate advocates for children, deeply misguided as they are.

One of the many things I don’t understand about antivaxxers is their peculiar attitude towards money and profits. Is the mundane fact that pharmaceutical companies want to be paid for the vaccines they produce somehow proof that those vaccines are rubbish and that those companies can’t be trusted? Does the fact that Mr. Offit gets paid for preventing diseases somehow mean that he didn’t do a good job, and that you can’t trust what he says?
Quite the contrary, I’d say! One of the best ways to earn money is to make darn sure that you deliver excellent products and services. And in general, top quality products fetch a rather higher price — without anyone questioning this basic market principle.
Then how come everything should be exactly the other way round with vaccines, according to antivaxxers? Should Mr. Offit have done his work as a sort of charity, only living off charity and begging on street corners himself? I don’t think that would have been very beneficial for his quality of work. Should vaccines be made by unpaid, uneducated volunteers? If you want to kill and maim children with vaccines, I’d say that’s exactly the way to go about it.
Antivaxxers just don’t make sense.

Indeed. It’s especially hypocritical when you remember that Andrew Wakefield got paid more than GBP 400,000 for his “case study”, and that woo meisters like Gary Null and Mike Adams (to name just two) are by no means impoverished.

Julian, you have no idea how the ( unintended?**) irony/ hilarity flows at these venues:
writers at SBM are uneducated and unprofessional, SB periodicals cite bad research, sceptics are only in it for the money, Wikipedia manufactures stories about REAL scientists, i.e. woo-meisters***

I’ve never been able to ascertain how much Mikey earns from his websites because he hides it overseas. The other has been cited by business sites at 10 million USD plus annually in sales.

** if the irony is deliberate, they’re laughing at their gullible followers; if unintended, they have no self-awareness
*** PRN.fm is currently running an endless series of exposes of Wikipedia.

Wakefield was paid for his medical “expertise” (which was in truth non-existent) relating to an MMR vaccine injury claim. He was paid £150 per hour over a 2 year period, according to details uncovered by Brian Deer.
Those of us who can do Math (ie not the antivaxers) can work out that according to the total sum paid to him, Wakefield supposedly worked, (in addition to his own full time academic job) for an average of 3.5 hours each and every day.
One must concludes his expenses claim was rather fraudulent.

When I see that argument I either ask them to prove letting kids get sick is cheaper, or for the more obnoxious ones I ask them why they want people to work for free —- because that means they are a socialist/commie/antifa or whatever “left wing folks are bad” trope is being used.

So… does this mean I should expect trouble at the World Vaccine and Immunotherapy conference in a couple of weeks? Should I start practicing my “public transit don’t talk to me” face?

I’ve been trying to prepare for the rest of the conference; I wasn’t thinking about this too.

@ JustaTech, you have no worries. They won’t pay to go to conferences that aren’t with the like-minded. You never see them at IMFAR for example even though you’d think they would have an interest. They just want to make scenes and lash out at anyone.

Orac writes,

I’m just a humble blogger…

MJD says,

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Orac is a practicing surgeon/scientist with phenomenal writing skills. He’s re-invented what it means to be a skeptic towards those who question the safety of vaccines. Unfortunately, when Orac applied not-so-respectful insolence towards a book I wrote about some well known vaccine-packaging hazards; it has forever branded MJD, and co-author, as an “anti-vaxxer” and “American Loon.”

@ Orac,

I’m waiting for a respectful apology.

[W]hen Orac applied not-so-respectful insolence towards a book I wrote about some well known vaccine-packaging hazards; it has forever branded MJD, and co-author, as an “anti-vaxxer” and “American Loon.”

As a South African, there is a story I find amusing and very relevant to your comment.
During the days of apartheid in South Africa, there was an opposition politician named Helen Suzman. She was opposed to apartheid and a constant thorn in the side of National Party MPs, constantly exposing abuses. One day, in exasperation, a National Party MP berated her. “Helen, your questions are embarrassing South Africa!” Suzman immediately riposted “It is not my questions that are embarrassing South Africa, it is YOUR answers!” Similarly, it was not Orac who had you branded an antivaxxer and American Loon, it was that book you wrote.
As for your obnoxious demand for an apology, fuck off and die in a fire, then go to Hell.

Julian Frost writes,

As for your obnoxious demand for an apology, fuck off and die in a fire, then go to Hell.

@ Julian Frost,

Please tell us where Hell is for the dead, and while your at it explain why “vaccine continuous improvement” is such a dangerous phrase; especially the vaccine continuous improvement that I’ve been a part of.

…explain why “vaccine continuous improvement” is such a dangerous phrase

Because it’s weasel wording. All too often it’s simply a veil for “I demand you change vaccines because I’m convinced they’re causing a harm” when there is no evidence that vaccies are causing any such harm. Best example? The removal of thimerosal over the mistaken belief that it caused autism.

…especially the vaccine continuous improvement that I’ve been a part of.


The “vaccine continuous improvement” you’ve been part of has involved you commenting here, “hypothesising” that vaccines can cause autism (and other problems) through latex contamination, even though vaccines have been more or less excluded as a cause of autism. In other words, you are asking for changes to be made based on a supposed harm they are not causing.

“I’m waiting for a respectful apology.”
I recommend that you hold your breath until you get one.

It’s ironic that Bigtree would make such a show of asking Offit how much he made from his work. By ironic I mean in the nice way of saying he’s a hypocrite.

Bigtree’s business is being a celebrity face for his movement. It’s a profitable business. The Vaxxed tour brought in over $1.3M in charitable donations, of which over $1M was immediately shunted to the business arm of the autism media channel. We don’t know how much the business made directly from the movie or how Wakefield and Tommey divided the money with Bigtree.

But we can say that going to that event and acting (recall his background is literally as a song and dance man—a second tier musical theater actor),Bigtree was making money. With a high degree of certainty

I see in the video he states how he was very worried about the safety of his family in Pasadena in case the Pharmaceutical companies did something, so he was happy to have moved to a more secure home in Malibu.
I guess that next he’ll be blaming Merck for causing the wildfires.

@ Matt Carey:

Recently I asked Orac’s minions if anyone else saw a television commercial that featured a guy who look a lot like Bigtree: perhaps I was correct. He played a guy building/ repairing something in his yard who took some OTC pills for pain. Maybe that’s how he can afford to not work regular at jobs, do freelance with Andy, travel in the VAXXED bus, have a “radio” show etc.

@ Julian Frost, Rene F. Najera, DrPH, and Old Rockin’ Dave:

Hey guys, can you tell us how you really feel?

Orac is truly a better person than any of us because we wouldn’t tolerate MJD’s habitual commenting/ perseveration**.
That, and of course, PUPPIES.

** although I know Orac has meaningful reasons to do so

I’ve had more than a couple run-ins with Milcarek on Facebook. He truly is a nasty individual. That part about his blindness is new though. He has only added that to his story recently. Someone posted a picture of their child in a group we’re both in, and he proceeded to explain about the lopsided grin the beautiful little girl was giving the camera. Of course it’s an ischemic stroke that is causing the baby to not hold her head perfectly straight, and the light was just simply gone from her eyes… Yeah; he’s one of those.

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